When it comes to financial documents, two types of people tend to exist–Oscars and Felixes, like the characters in Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple.” The Felix record-keeper tends to be neatly organized, whereas the Oscar tends to be a bit jumbled.
Regardless of whether you are tidy or cluttered, tax time is that one time of year when most people have all their financial documents pulled together. It is also a great time of year to revisit that age-old question, “How long should I keep this stuff?”
“And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s: it is holy unto the Lord.” Leviticus 27:30
We are going to provide some guidelines, but keep in mind that these are only suggestions. Financial documents are often kept for tax-related purposes; so before making any changes to your record-keeping, make certain your tax professional is comfortable with your approach.
Because taxes drive many recordkeeping decisions, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can be a good resource for how long to keep documents. Here is a quick summary of the IRS guidelines:
Don’t Throw It Away … Yet
The IRS says you should keep tax records and receipts for three years. But there are some exceptions.
“You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it. This is what the Lord Almighty says: `Give careful thought to your ways`…” Haggai 1:6-7
But what about other documents, such as utility bills, a car title, or personal records, such as marriage certificates or school diplomas? Here are some general guidelines for how long to hang on to them.
Record-Keeping for Everything Else
Personal documents have less structure than what the IRS outlines. Consider keeping some of these documents in a secure, safe place.
If you have another personal or financial document that is not on the list, please let us know as soon as possible. We can help you find some information that will give you a better idea of how long to maintain those records. When in doubt, it may be best to err on the side of caution with personal documents—especially with records that cannot be easily reproduced.